Saturday, December 4

Greece struggles to put out the fire for the fifth day in a row as anger grows over lack of means

Of the hundreds of fires that have been declared in recent days, the most serious remain uncontrolled on the island of Euboea, the Peloponnese and the northern suburbs of Athens, although the latter shows a more optimistic picture after a catastrophic Friday in which the flames forced dozens of municipalities to evacuate in a frenzy. There are currently 55 active fronts in the country.

Despite the rain that finally dropped an hour this morning on Euboea, strong winds have carried the fire to the southwest after devastating almost the entire north of the island, putting its capital, Chalcis, at risk. Meanwhile, the northern front is only a few kilometers from Istiea, where the air presence increased to protect the 25,000 people present in the area. “We have nowhere to go, they have brought the evacuees here and now we will all burn,” a tearful neighbor from Istiea told the media, accusing the government of waiting for the sea to stop the fire.

Almost 40 populations have been evacuated in Euboea. On Friday night, more than 600 people had to be taken off the island by ferry in an operation that left shocking images, with neighbors, tourists and their pets watching from the water how a wall of fire dyed the entire mountain red. until almost reaching the sea. The Governor of Central Greece, Fanis Spanos, has criticized precisely the lack of means, spread throughout the country and has lamented the destruction of the houses of at least 300 families.

Slight improvement in the suburbs of Athens

The deputy governor of the capital region Attica, Nikos Peppas, assured Skai private television this Saturday that, despite the “real hell” that has been experienced during the night, the authorities hope to have this fire fully under control by the end of the day. However, firefighters are more cautious about the possible increase this afternoon in the intensity of gusts of wind, one of the main factors that yesterday worsened the situation in the north of the capital. A major operation is still present in which an amphibious plane sent by Spain is already active along with six members of the Military Emergency Unit, as confirmed this Saturday by the Spanish ambassador to Greece, Enrique Viguera.

So far, the fire has left a fatality. A 38-year-old man who died from injuries caused by a falling power pole while participating in the fire fighting in the northern suburbs of Athens as a volunteer firefighter. In addition, there are four hospitalized firefighters, two in critical condition due to burns to the respiratory tract.

As announced by the Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection, Nikos Jardaliás, so far three arrests have been made: A man in Kalamata, in the Peloponnese, accused of several arson, another man in Phocis, in the center of the country, for alleged negligence after burning stubble, and a woman in the center of Athens, for trying to start a fire.

Criticism of the Government

In addition to the anger of those affected and criticism on social networks, there is information from local media that indicates that in the last decade more than a billion euros have been cut in prevention and fight against fires and, in addition, warns that the lack of maps Foresters opens a window to premeditated burning for speculation, although the Government has assured that all affected areas will be considered reforestable.

In addition, several media highlight that, while the conservative government increased the military budget and hired police officers, the summer has caught Greece with 4,000 fewer firefighters and outdated trucks. According to these reports, the Firefighters asked the State for a budget of 17 million euros for 2021 and have received 1.7 million.

Efthymis Lekkas, professor of natural disaster management at the University of Athens, estimates that at least 50,000 hectares have been burned and indicates that, although the first few days did not blow such strong winds, the temperature that reached the ground during the fires, of about 65 degrees Celsius, made the extinction very difficult.

“We have constantly highlighted that the high temperatures have generated fuel, conditions in which even a spark can cause a fire,” he said in an interview with Skai, in which he stressed that the rest of August will be difficult and warned of possible floods. that will follow the destruction of thousands of hectares of forest.